Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, who was also the first Black lead in Bachelor Nation history, has responded to host Chris Harrison's announcement that he would be "stepping aside for a period of time" from the Bachelor franchise.
Harrison's statement on Saturday, February 13, came after he defended Matt James' controversial contestant Rachael Kirkconnell following bombshell racist allegations against her during an interview with Lindsay earlier this month.
The host noted that he would step away from the beloved franchise to "try to evolve and be a better man" and said he is "dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before." He also said his mistakes should not overshadow the historic importance of James as the first Black Bachelor lead, and Harrison shared that he will not be joining the After the Final Rose special.
While speaking to Extra host Billy Bush on Monday, February 15, Lindsay said she was "stunned" after her interview with the 49-year-old — who said Bachelor Nation should offer Kirkconnell "a little grace, a little understanding" after she allegedly "liked" racially insensitive posts on social media and was reportedly photographed attending a plantation-themed party and dressed as a Native American person.
"Like he said, he needs to take time to get educated and on a profound and productive level to use his word," Lindsay told Bush. "And I think he needs to understand what was done, what was wrong, and what he said in that interview, and he needs time. He's stepped away to do that."
Lindsay also questioned where the franchise will go from this point. She said she was certainly disappointed by her interview with Harrison, while noting that he "has taken the steps to issue not one but two apologies."
After Harrison came under fire for his interview with Lindsay, he privately apologized to the former Bachelorette and took to social media to apologize for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism."
Lindsay explained to Bush that it was hard for her to "fully accept" Harrison's initial apology because it came "after the fact."
"I'm going to need that time and space and compassion that he referenced to really accept the apology, because [Chris wasn't] apologetic at first," she added. "I'm not saying I can't get there, it's just, initially, it's a little tough for me."
The 35-year-old further noted that most people think of racism as just "explicit racism… you think wearing a white hood, you know? Saying things that are derogatory or offensive."
She said that her recent interview with Harrison — where he also implied that Kirkconnell's behavior was acceptable in 2018, as opposed to 2021 where people are looking through a different lens — was "a moment for people to recognize what was being said and to learn and grow from it, which is what we're seeing happen now with Chris."
Prior to Harrison's departure announcement, Kirkconnell — who was deemed the frontrunner on James' season 25 — apologized for her past actions via an Instagram statement on Thursday, February 11. The 24-year-old admitted that her "ignorance was racist" and that "I was wrong."
She added: "At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them," before apologizing to the "communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended."
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.